February 27 2019

12:00 Hershey Hall 158

Emily Meineke
Harvard University Herbaria

Herbivory Through the Ages: Novel Methods Reveal How Global Change Affects Plant-herbivore Interactions


Insects have eaten plants for nearly 400 million years, and these interactions have given rise to much of macroscopic diversity. Over the past 12,000 years or so, humans have altered these relationships by domesticating plants and moving them beyond their natural ranges, spraying pesticides, building cities, and changing the global climate. However, data on species interactions spanning these concurrent changes are rare, making it difficult to determine how plant-insect relationships have shifted with global change.

My research focuses on developing novel methods to determine how plant-insect interactions respond to global change. I have developed citywide urban warming experiments and systems for measuring insect damage preserved within historical plant specimens to predict how future climate change and urban development will affect insect community structure, abundance, diversity, and biological control. With these novel methods, I have shown that herbivore abundance and damage are likely to increase with continued warming caused by urbanization and global climate change.

In addition to fundamental research, my work aims to provide practical information for land management as the climate changes. For example, I have shown urban warming and plant water stress interact to determine the extent to which herbivores reduce urban tree growth. Thus, increasing water availability for plants is a key strategy to improve urban forest greenness, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration as cities continue to warm.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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